The Word and Christian Unity – Wisdom from Dr. Luther

“For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” 2 Corinthians 13:8

“This is so great a good that no human heart can grasp it (therefore it necessitates such a great and hard fight). It must not be treated lightly, as the world maintains and many people who do not understand, saying we should not fight so hard about an article and thus trample on Christian love; rather, although we err on one small point, if we agree on everything else, we should give in and overlook the difference in order to preserve brotherly and Christian unity and fellowship.

“No, my dear man, do not recommend to me peace and unity when thereby God’s Word is lost, for then eternal life and everything else would be lost. In this matter there can be no yielding or giving way, no, not for the love of you or any other person, but everything must yield to the Word, whether it be friend or foe. The Word was given unto us for eternal life and not to further outward peace and unity. The Word and doctrine will create Christian unity and fellowship. Where they reign all else will follow. Where they are not no concord will ever abide. Therefore do not talk to me about love and friendship, if that means breaking with the Word, or the faith, for the Gospel does not say that love brings eternal life, God’s grace, and all heavenly treasures, but the Word.”

~ The Blessed Dr. Luther, W.A. 34.II.287, from “Day by Day We Magnify Thee,” p. 384


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The Word and Christian Unity – Wisdom from Dr. Luther — 27 Comments

  1. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20 ESV)

    “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18 ESV)

    “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 ESV)

  2. It would be silly to try to pit love against the Word of God or the Word of God against love, because God is love and the Word of God is truth. People who speak the Word of God don’t seek to be loveless or divisive, but division comes because it’s a byproduct of a sinful world in rebellion against the Word of God. (Matthew 10)

    When we are divided by the Word of God it is because we are not united it His truth. One or both of us are lying about God’s Word. Our Holy Father cannot lie or be a part of lies so where there are lies about His truth there is also division and death. However, God does forgive the sinful lies of the repentant sinner. Thanks be to God for sending his Son as a sacrifice to forgive that sin which leads to division and death so that we may have eternal life in Him.

    When a child of God shares the true Word of God he will see division and persecution, because the devil, the world and our sinful human nature hates the Word of God. We are called to be peacemakers in our reaction to that division and persecution.

    {18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.} (Romans 12:19-21 ESV)

  3. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:6 ESV)

    “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:24-25 ESV)

    “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2 ESV)

    “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up ….” (Ephesians 4:15 ESV)

    “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ESV)

    “Each tree is known by its fruit.” (Luke 6:44 ESV)

  4. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life…  Philippians 2

  5. Good question T-rav.

    I feel we should avoid endless arguing and complaining over “one small point” when reasonable people of good will can differ in interpretation of a subject that isn’t treated very extensively or clearly in scripture.  (example women lectors).

  6. @John Rixe #6

    If one takes a look at church history they will find that many times when Doctrine is being debated the heretical side will say that scriptures​ aren’t clear on a point and the Orthodox side will argue that they are. What often happens in these cases is the Orthodox are bullied into conceding the point because the other side says that contesting the point is unkind.

    Be careful when making the unclear claim. Whenever the scriptures speak to a point, they are clear. So if the scriptures speak to the issue of women lectors, they are clear about it.

  7. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #7

    Similarly, it is far more often that the heterodox crowd adds to scripture to explain something the text does not intend to, or extends a passage beyond its intended meaning. That charge cuts both ways. For example, the issue of women lectors or women participating in singing of hymns.

  8. Another tactic is to confuse issues in order to justify an error, as happens when the clear parts about who can teach and preach and yes even read the Scriptures in sacramental actions of the Church are denied by confusing them with those clear parts speak of the sacrificial action of singing.

    If the verses about women remaining silent are supposedly unclear (which they aren’t unless you are trying to innovate against history since creation) about who should be proclaiming publicly in the Church, then look at Acts 15:21 which clearly and simply makes the public reading of Scripture equal to preaching.

    The papistry involved in the fight against Pr. Preus article has been striking. From the attempts to use human authority to subdue the Word, to canon law, to sophistry and now onto the denial of the clarity of Scripture. All in Reformation 500 no doubt. It appears that the Lutheran Church of 2017 has adopted many of the ways and works of the pope of 1517.

  9. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #11

    Who was arguing to allow women to be preachers? I think the article was about whether women could recite the scriptures of the day. If in your mind that equates to being elevated to an ordained minister, it is a pretty odd definition. I am hoping that those pastors espousing this view aren’t going up to the pulpit, reading a passage, then going BOOM! [Drops Mic].

  10. @Sean #13

    The Apostle John speaks of one public reader of the word and many heaters in the opening verses of Revelation.

    I wonder who the one reader is.

  11. @T-rav #5

    I was concerned that the Luther quote could be used to justify all kinds of contentiousness. So I recalled some Bible passages that I thought said something useful about how to conduct oneself in the face of differences.

  12. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #14

    I think that’s a great verse that makes no reference to an ecclesiastical order. Blessed is the one who does this, and blessed are those who hear and obey. Keep in mind though as Christians we are all called to proclaim the word as a kingdom of priests. John himself when addressing the seven churches in Asia calls them priests just a couple verses later. The great commission is not given only to the apostles but it was written for all of us. We are all called to be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is in us. So we are all called to handle the word. The difference between a pastor and a lay person is the pastor has been provided instruction to teach and equip believers to handle the word. That goes far beyond just reciting a passage. Otherwise why conduct sermons, or bible studies, etc.?

  13. @Sean #16

    Was the book of Revelation sent to all Christians in the 90s A.D.? No. It was probably sent just to the pastors of the seven churches that the Apostle supervised. The pastor was the one who read. The parishioners were the ones who heard.

    Who was Jesus talking to in Matthew 28? The eleven. Who were the eleven? Pastors.

    Scripture teaches that the difference between pastors and laity is one of calling. All Christians have the calling that the laity have: baptism. Pastors are appointed by God for the public proclamation (reading aloud and preaching) of the Word of God and for the delivery of the Lord’s gifts.

    The Word of God does what it says, so when it is read publicly, it is a function of the office God has appointed for the public proclamation of the Word. Or are you saying that a sermon is more effective than the Word of God?

  14. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #17

    I think you are putting the cart before the horse there. Matthew was written for the benefit of the corporate body of believers, and he included it in his gospel as a command to that same corporate body of believers. Many of the apostles were already dead by the time it was written. The clear purpose of the writer of Matthew was to provide a written testimony of the good news so that it would be proclaimed to all nations (whether they be Christian or heathen) by Christians whether clergy or not.

    And again, Revelation was written for the benefit of all the churches in Asia. Not just the clergy. And you are assuming that it was read only by pastors. When we read the book of Acts, we often find that the apostles are catching up with the Holy Spirit who has already spread the word ahead of them. Who then was proclaiming the word? See Acts Acts 8 where Philip, who was a deacon, not a pastor (episkopos), proclaimed the word in Samaria and Ethiopia. The apostles later followed at the urging of the church already established. We see the same thing when Peter is sent to the home of Cornelius. Additionally, who was Amos? He was not of the levitical priesthood. The man was a shepherd and farmer, yet he was sent to proclaim the word to Israel.

    Even the manuscript history of the Bible suggests that it was spread rapidly and often by unschooled people because they were in such a fervor to spread the gospel.

    Examples abound my friend. Once again, we are a kingdom of priests. Don’t mistake your collar for some kind of monopoly on the word.

    One more thing, the early Christian church apparently found it perfectly acceptable to have a person other than the pastor read the scriptures publicly. Justin Martyr:
    ” And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.”

  15. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #19

    I actually am. The difference is, I am looking at more than one verse. I firmly believe in sola scriptura. But sola scriptura consists of all of scripture. Not just one verse from Revelation, whose narrow interpretation you provided was refuted two verses later.

  16. @Sean #20

    You used a lot of isagogics to ignore the text of Matthew 28. And I don’t know what you’re talking about with Revelation.

  17. @Rev. Charles Lehmann #21

    Do you mean eisegesis? It’s not eisegesis to identify the audience of an epistle/gospel. That is actually part of hermaneutics. It’s also not eisegesis in light of the fact that a consistent thread in scripture is the proclamation by all of god’s word. Look at Psalms 32 and 51 for example, where David proclaims and instructs. 1 Peter 2:9 is another example speaking to the laity. I’ll let you be since you aren’t looking at the word because I got your dander up. check it out when you cool off.

  18. @Sean #22

    None of the Scripture you quoted justifies putting a woman in the chancel to do any part of the pastor’s work.
    [It apparently escaped your attention that David was male and that the Psalms were directed to the attention of the “Choirmaster”!] Neither is the last an instruction to lead the church in worship.

    The “royal priesthood” can tell others the Gospel on the street, it can sing and respond in the congregation and in Bible classes, but it should not usurp the position of the pastor.

    What is there about Office of the Holy Ministry that you don’t understand!?
    Jesus appointed men to be the first pastors and they appointed (I find “elections by the people somewhat doubtful) other men to follow them. It has been so for 2000 years.

    What makes this generation/century so much “smarter” than all those preceding?
    If you look at the mess on our streets, in our universities…yes, and in our churches…we clearly haven’t improved the state of the world. And you aren’t “improving” church by catering to the feminists either!

    Lord, have mercy!

  19. @helen #24

    At no point in any one of the threads dealing with the subject has anyone in any way advocated for women to usurp the position or authority of the pastor. If someone has done so, it was not me, so stop trying to put words into my mouth and simplifying the argument for the sake of carrying the day. If you cannot be intellectually honest about the argument that others are making you are obfuscating the issue, purposefully or otherwise. What has been said is that trying to equate reading of the scriptures ahead of the sermon with assuming the teaching authority of the pastor is a false argument. If Luther and others believed that simply reciting scripture constitutes teaching in the sense that you are referring, then why did he create the small catechism expounding on the meaning of the commandments (as an example), or why do we have sermons? Additionally, believing that women are co-heirs and partners in the body of Christ does not make one a “feminist”.

  20. @Sean #25

    While you’re right that no one has *directly* advocated for women to usurp the position or authority of the pastor, those who argue that the public reading of Scripture has been given to pastors will believe that a differing opinion usurps the position or authority of the pastor- period.

    As far as teaching, the argument looks more like this:

    Reading the Scriptures in the divine service is teaching,
    Teaching is not reading the Scriptures in the Divine Service.

    Similar to:

    God is love.
    Love is not God.

    Or

    A square is a rectangle.
    A rectangle is not a square.

    The Scripture readings are teaching, and so are the hymns, the sermon, Bible Class, the Catechism, etc. They all teach in different ways, at different levels, in different forums. The question is what is proper, orderly, Scriptural conduct in the public congregational setting?

  21. @T-rav #26

    Nicely sorted out!

    The simplest way to divide the duties of the Pastor and the privileges of the congregation is with the Altar Rail. What goes on behind it, the lectern and the pulpit (which are in newer configurations behind the Rail) is the province of the pastor.

    What is done from the pew, the choir, or in the classroom is the participation from the laity (men and women).

    That was Luther’s “decent and orderly way to do things” and it should be ours.
    Women in the chancel are an aberration borrowed from the Schwaermerei and any resolution permitting it rescinded.

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